If the next three weeks play out in similar fashion to Week 13’s games, then the strongest fantasy teams, from top to bottom, should walk away with their leagues’ championships. In other words, this doesn’t look like one of those years in which a roster comprised of waiver-wire wonders and shooting stars is going to compete against the big boys.
Fantasy owners savvy or lucky enough to have drafted Peyton Manning are in the driver’s seat. But the odds-on NFL MVP will have to keep the missiles firing to topple squads led by Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Matt Stafford, Tony Romo and even, belatedly, Tom Brady.
Nick Foles might have something to say about it, and Aaron Rodgers is the ultimate wild card. But teams with second-tier passers had better be awfully solid at the RB and WR positions to run the postseason gauntlet.
Right on cue, the elite rushers are separating from the pack as well. Adrian Peterson is closing out the season in battering-ram style. Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, Knowshon Moreno, Reggie Bush and Matt Forte are workhorses we can trust. Heck, even CJ Spiller, Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew are stepping up their games when it counts the most.
Second-tier backs like Ben Tate, Steven Jackson and DeMarco Murray are well positioned to contribute meaningfully down the stretch. And thanks to the sheer volume of touches they’re receiving, Zac Stacy and Le’Veon Bell have emerged as every-week starters, provided they can stay healthy.
But woe to those banking on the likes of Bobby Rainey, Donald Brown, Rashad Jennings and the incredible shrinking Ray Rice. Their postseason run is likely to be a brief one.
Again, the top-tier wideouts are leaving little to chance. You have to feel confident heading into the playoffs with Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Denver’s prolific trio. (Just please spare me another Peyton Manning-Eric Decker buzz saw!) We’re also witnessing the emergence of three exceptional second-year wideouts – Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery and Michael Floyd – that are staking their claims to elite status. They should not be benched under any circumstances.
Finally, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis and a healthy Julius Thomas regularly give their owners a weekly advantage at the tight end position that is difficult to overcome.
So, if you’re about to enjoy a first-round bye, I like your chances to raise a tacky trophy at season’s end. That is, assuming the next few weeks are like Week 13.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at a couple of players worth considering for your postseason run.
Catch ‘em while you can
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers. Those banking on Le’Veon Bell must consider scooping up Dwyer, who would be pressed into the starting lineup if Bell’s concussion symptoms don’t clear up quickly. On the positive side, Dwyer will be facing the weak Dolphins run defense in Week 14. On the other hand, Dwyer is no Bell.
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers. We’ve now seen that Crabtree has recovered his explosiveness and he’s in reasonable sync with his quarterback. He’s also still available in the vast majority of leagues. Likely freed from his precautionary snap count going forward, Crabtree can be very helpful down the stretch. Grab him if you can.
Ladd Biro was named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010, 2011). Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).